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5 Steps to Understanding and Setting Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy  boundaries

1. Defining Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries:

  • Are vital guidelines you set to establish your personal limits.

  • Define what behaviours you are willing or not to accept and determine your response when someone crosses those limits.

  • Are unique, so do not compare your boundaries with others. It is time to consider better boundaries if it feels wrong for you, overstepped, dismissed or unheard.

  • Are the foundation for positive, respectful, caring relationships in your personal and/or professional life. 

 It is time to set healthy boundaries when you:

  • Tend to people pleasing.

  • Can't say no.

  • Are overwhelmed by commitment.

  • Do things for others even when they can do them alone.

  • Experience anger, frustration, anxiety or resentment after agreeing to something.

  • Are frequently disappointed by people and situations and keep ruminating.

  • Often feel exhausted and nervous. 

If this sounds familiar, your boundaries may have been crossed too often and must be redefined more firmly.

Setting heathy boundaries is self-care

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage

to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.

Brené Brown

2. Establishing Your Personal Boundaries

When you realise that you need to improve boundaries, the first step is to decide how these should look by establishing what is important to you. This requires self-reflection.

  • Pay close attention to your emotions and physical reactions around people and situations. Listening to your gut feeling is vital; if something feels unpleasant, your boundaries have been crossed.

  • Take notes when something makes you uncomfortable or makes you feel good. A clear idea of what works or doesn't work will help you create your plan.

  • Make a priority list: is there any area you feel requires your attention first? Changes are challenging; facing them all at once can be overwhelming.

  • Learn from your past; if something didn't work already, it will unlikely work in the future. Explore new ways to implement your changes.

  • Explore how to improve your connection with yourself. Mindfulness, journalling, meditation and reading self-help books are very helpful.

  • Begin to jot down your boundaries; it enables you to organise your thoughts, and when you are ready, you can express them.

Boundaries are healthy limits

Healthy boundaries are not walls.

They are gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden.

Lydia Hall

3. Making Others Aware of the Changes

Now that you have identified what matters to you and what you are unwilling to accept, you have to communicate these boundaries are in place. 

  • Have a straightforward conversation with the people involved.

  • Or wait until your boundary is about to be crossed

  • Communicate your decisions respectfully, firmly, calmly, and without engaging in excessive explanations. 

  • Start small; begin with easy tasks.

  • When you start, expect resistance and remain firm.

  • You may lose some people on this journey, and that's not necessarily negative. Instead, preserving connections with those who respect your boundaries is crucial.


4. Maintaining Your Boundaries Is A Lifelong Job.

If setting healthy boundaries is challenging, maintaining them takes consistent effort. 

  • Most people around you will have difficulties adjusting to the changes you made, especially if you were never firm about your boundaries before

  • Give people around you the time they need to adjust; it is also a time of change for them. However, remain firm and don't give up. You will get there! 

  • People who tend to be controlling, abusive, or manipulative will likely test you on your new limits more than once.

  • Be aware that your behaviour must match your intention; you cannot establish clear boundaries if you begin to apologise for your needs. 

  • Remember that you are not responsible for other people's responses to your boundaries. Your responsibility to others is to communicate your decisions respectfully. 

No means no

No is a complete sentence.

Annie Lamott

5. Overcoming the Obstacles

As mentioned, it will be challenging when you begin affirming your boundaries. It will take some time to see significant differences, mainly due to the mixed feelings you will experience throughout the process. 

If setting boundaries is something new to you, initially, you may face uncomfortable emotions, such as guilt, insecurity, and fear of not being accepted if you stand up for yourself. 

You will often doubt yourself, let all these emotions flow inside you, and not fight with them. Observe what they are saying to you. Are these old beliefs that prevented you from setting boundaries before? Journalling or taking notes of these emotions and the thoughts they arise from can be a great help.

When you finally feel comfortable with your boundaries, you will experience what it means to be in charge of yourself and a great sense of freedom.

Final Thoughts

Challenging emotions are expected when you try to establish new boundaries. Remind yourself that the previous situation was not healthy for you anymore. Trust yourself in this journey and give yourself the time you need.  You won't regret it.

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